Flavor Dictionary 1

As I sat there over my steaming bowl of curry I realized just how much better life is because of herbs and spices.  Especially my life.  I took over my mom's herb garden when I was 15 and the first her big health issues began to show.  Being the oldest I was also the one who naturally got the assignment of not only babysitting my 5 younger siblings (much to their frustration) but also in the care of the youngest who was only 2 months old.

So as I was thrust into the role of mom there was only one choice, sink or swim.  I got some very good advice when I was twelve: If you can't change your situation, change your attitude.  So as I struggled to swim I began to find pieces and parts of the mom routine that I enjoyed.  Cooking with my herb garden was my favorite.  In the years since I have learned much more and broadened my horizons to enjoy flavors and spices from around the world.

I want to share some of that and since we here at Mary Ann's Cupboard's are now offering high quality herbs and spices I think it is time. 

Here is the first installment of our flavor dictionary...

An aromatic spice used often in desserts, Caribbean cooking (especially Jerk Seasoning), also in Indian and middle eastern cuisine.  It blends very well with any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. 
Suggested uses: Use whole in hot spiced drinks or ground in spice cake, sauces, and curries.

Anise with itís fragrant licorice-like flavor, has long been used as an herb and a medicine.  It is often  found with dishes full of spices such as curries and marsalas.  Anise is good for digestion and a simple tea of anise is a natural way to sooth the stomach after eating hot and spicey foods.
Suggested uses: Teas, cookies, and candies are all excellent uses for this seed.

Basil has many varieties (spicy globe, Italian, Greek, sweet, etc.) each with a distinct bright flavor, but on the whole they taste similar and are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.  Basil is fantastic used fresh on salads, bruschetta, in soups, sauces, etc.  Dried basil is a decent substitute.  Used heavily in Italian cooking
Suggested uses:  Italian sauces, nearly any soup, great in salad dressing, or fresh on salad.  Excellent paired with fresh tomatoes and fresh Mozzarella.

Bay Leaf:
A wonderful herb often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and p‚tés in Mediterranean cuisine.  It has a flavor similar to oregano and thyme and goes well with these two herbs.  They can range in color from a dull green to brown.
Suggested uses: Adds a great flavor to meats, especially red meats.  When ground used in the base for many Indian Marsalas.  Part of the spice mix for Corned Beef

Black Pepper:
Next to Salt, the most familiar spice we use.  It has a hot bite to it and an earthy flavor that adds so much to any dish. 
Suggested uses: Wonderful on meats and vegetables and hot or cold dishes alike.  Black pepper is also a unique and unexpected addition in small quantities to deserts like spice cake, or berry shortcake or crumble.

Caraway Seed:
Most often used whole in European and Mediterranean cooking.  It has a pungent Anise-like flavor and fragrance.  Often seen paired with the grain Rye. 
Suggested uses: Often used in baked goods and breads like Rye bread.   Traditionally added to cheeses, cake, and sauerkraut.

Cayenne Pepper:
Generally dried and ground, or pulped and baked into cakes, which are then ground and sifted to make the powdered spice.  It is in more or less the middle of the Scoville heat rating table.
Suggested uses: Used fresh in Caribbean or Indian cooking.  Dried Cayenne is good to add heat to anything like salsas, fajitas or tacos, chili, and buffalo wings.

Celery Seed:
A bright and fragrant seed that will lend itís flavor almost as well to any dish as fresh celery.  Celery seeds are also a great source of calcium.  One of the main flavors in "Old BayĒ Seasoning.
Suggested uses:  Pairs well with any tomato dish.  Can be used to make dips, season the "Chicago StyleĒ hot dog or lend itís flavor to a variety of soups and stews.

Chili Powder:
Chili powder blend is composed chiefly of chili peppers and blended with other spices including cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and salt.  It is the primary seasoning ingredient in Chili Con Carne.  The most common blends have a slight to medium heat and a smoky slightly woody flavor.
Suggested uses: Good in any variety of chili, adds a nice punch to beef and chicken especially for Mexican dishes.

The leaves of the Coriander plant.  Highly fragrant and has a distinct flavor that many find overwhelming.  Found often in Indian Chutneys and Mexican salsas and guacamole.  Dried cilantro has a milder flavor and will not be as bright or strong as fresh.
Suggested uses: Very tasty used fresh in salads and Indian dishes.   Dried can be used in nearly and Indian or Mexican dish, a salsa must in my opinion.

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Tags: herbs  spices  flavors  uses  ingredients  cooking  stewing  eating 

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